Over the next 6 weeks I will be highlighting the story of much of my family, particularly with regards to my grandparents, parents, and individuals key in saving both the lives and memories of much of my family. I will be leading up to a very special story of a lost family member and a most inspirational and memorable moment. I call this series, 6 Passages to Bram.
The first installment will be my grandparents on my father’s side, with special mention of my aunts and uncles from this side of the family.
We often hear stories of bravery and self-sacrifice. In many ways the story of Leendert (seen above) and Marianne Groen, my paternal grandparents, epitomizes both of those things like no other story you will ever hear. They started their family in the port city of Rotterdam, a city that albeit one with a Jewish community in the 1920’s, was not one where being Jewish was particularly easy. My grandfather Leendert had a successful business until running into difficulties for not being able to remain open on the Jewish Sabbath, the Shabbat. Rather than compromising the principles he believed in and was teaching to his children, he chose to close his business, and with my grandmother in agreement picked up and moved the family to the thriving center of Jewish Holland, the city of Amsterdam. It was there that they chose to raise their children, 4 of which would be active the rest of their lives in the Jewish community or would live in the State of Israel for significant portions of their lives. The 5th, the youngest daughter Elizabeth, would be one of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.
When the Nazis raided the Jewish neighborhoods, they systematically emptied them out until nothing remained of anything resembling a Jewish identity. When the time came near to when Leendert and Marianne would be transported out of Amsterdam, ultimately to their deaths in the concentration camp, Jacques Baruch, close family friend and active member of the resistance, attempted to provide them with baptismal papers in order to allow them to hide long enough to survive the Nazi onslaught. They refused the papers, with Leendert making the statement to Jacques that would define him for eternity, “We were born as Jews, we will die as Jews”. Sadly they would indeed die as Jews in Auschwitz on February 5, 1943. They would take their faith with them to their death and their lives and devotion to their faith are an inspiration to us all.
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